My second book of the work of Janko Polić Kamov is the translation of his collection of nine poems which he published in 1907 – ‘Psovka‘ (‘The Curse‘). The poems featured are: Preludij – The Prelude Pjesma nad Pjesmama – Song of Songs Job Mojsije – Moses Pjesma suncu – Song to the Sun Intermezzo Dan mrtvih – Day of the Dead Ledeni blud – Icy Debauchery Finale
Also included are two articles: ‘Poe‘ – Kamov’s impression of Edgar Allan Poe and ‘Beneath the Aeroplane‘ his contemporaneous view of the beginnings of human aviation in Europe. Another addition is a collection of aphorisms published after his death in the Italian Futurist journal ‘Lacebra‘ in 1913.
I reconstructed the cover of the original 1907 edition.
It is available as a paperback, 50 pages, and ebook edition via Amazon.com here and Amazon.de, Amazon.it, Amazon.co.uk and also via many ebook channels such as Apple Books etc.
This is an interview conducted by Dario Sušanj for velikabritanija.net and published 09.09.2014.
Janko Polić Kamov, a Croatian writer and a poet, died at a very young age, but left behind a major work of Croatian modernist literature: the novel ‘Isušena kaljuža’ (‘The Dried Up Mire’). Literary critics often agree that his work was way ahead of the worldwide movements which were to follow in the years after his death, like surrealism and modernism, with writers such as Joyce, Kafka and Camus later leading the way, and they often label Kamov’s work as ‘revolutionary’. However, Kamov’s novel and much of his work has never been translated into English and an Englishman living in Croatia, Martin Mayhew, is now working on translating Kamov’s important novel. As Martin is doing this, he is also compiling a unique glossary of archaic and almost forgotten Croatian words and phrases which he hopes will be useful to any future translators who may embark on a difficult task of translating a work of Croatian modernist literature into English.
“They set off on a walk. Across the square passed a funeral, a long cortège of men, women and some kind of craftsmen’s guild. The music slowly followed the sad and boring step, under the gloomy sky, on the unbearable Sunday, which had closed the shops, cleaned the marketplace, brought people out for a walk or made them yawn at the windows of their houses. It was after noon. There were people at the side, who were looking blankly at the procession. The colourful robes, both genders, young and old, all with the same looks, which were neither of sadness nor curiosity, but of a kind of long, protracted and half-dead look, that notices nothing, but sees everything. The tolling of bells rang out like somebody’s voices breaking up then returning, sinking and re-merging like a castaway at sea. Arsen stared at the coffin. Behind it there cried one young woman, throwing her head wildly into a handkerchief and twitching her shoulders as though wanting to shake off some burden.”
– An excerpt from the yet unpublished translation of “The Dried Up Mire” by Janko Polić Kamov, as translated by Martin Mayhew
Martin Mayhew has
been living in Rijeka, Croatia, for about ten years; he first visited the
country in 2000 as a journalist, on a tour organised by the Croatian
Tourist Board, but in 2003 he moved from his hometown of Brighton to the
city of Rijeka, one of the main ports in the Northern Adriatic and a city known
for having a lively cultural and also alternative scene, not much unlike his
own Brighton. As his association with Rijeka grew stronger and stronger, it is
no wonder, of course, that Martin, as a lover of good literature, also quickly
found out about the works of Rijeka-born writer and poet Janko Polić Kamov who had been briefly active in the
early years of the 20th century. Martin decided to embark on a challenging
and difficult task – we could even call it a linguistic adventure – to
translate Kamov’s most important work, “The Dried Up Mire”, into English. This
has never been done before, probably owing mostly to the complexity of the task
and the fact that Kamov’s work is still not well known and recognised outside
the region – even though he is often compared to other modernists such as Joyce
Martin recently published a few excerpts from his yet unpublished translation on his blog, hoping, of course, to be able to find a publisher who would be interested into bringing this key work of Croatian modernist literature one step closer to the English-speaking audience across the world. This is why I caught up with Martin, asking him a few questions about the challenges he faced whilst working on this translation.
Martin, this is a rather predictable question to begin
with, but why Kamov? Except for the obvious Rijeka connection, how and why have
you decided to translate his works?
When I first came to Croatia in 2000 I
was given a copy of ‘Southerly Thoughts and Other Short Stories’ a collection
of stories by Croatian writers. Amongst the collection were two by Janko Polić
Kamov which grabbed my attention as being something extraordinary, gritty,
uncompromising. A couple of years later when I began working as a translator in
Rijeka I was approached to make an offer to translate his novel ‘Isušena
Kaljuža’ into English. Unfortunately that deal did not come to fruition and so
I decided to continue personally with the translation of Kamov’s work,
primarily of his short stories which along the way would allow me to continue
with the English version of his novel, the first chapter of which I had already
completed and shelved. For me the more I translate his work, the more I relate
to it, which is also something I think other readers experience and just
recently I have discovered that there are also other people working on the
translations of his works into two other languages.
Why do you feel that ‘The Dried Up Mire’ (‘Isušena
kaljuža’) is or could be relevant to the English-speaking audiences today?
So many people here in Rijeka tell me
that ‘Kaljuža’, and Kamov’s work in general, is very important for the history
of Croatian literature, because it is said that his work was way ahead of the
worldwide movements which were to follow after his death. Surrealism,
modernism, avant-garde, existentialism and revolutionary are some of the labels
which have been attached to his work. In his work he refers to the political
events which were happening in Croatia (at his time under Austro-Hungarian
rule), he was against the system and briefly spent time in prison for his
political beliefs. In this sense he could be seen as a champion for
independence or more clearly a champion against repression, hypocrisy, elitism
etc. in general. His work deals mostly with the human condition, internal
conflicts, heaven and hell, madness, the dark sides of life, society, sex,
alcohol, violence, death and religion. He was an early pavement writer. So, in
this way his relevance to the English-speaking audience is important in that
his work, when translated well into English, will shed light on the history and
literature of this part of the world, in a specific period of time but even
more so on a style which pre-dates the movements which were approaching on the
Would you compare Kamov’s work to any of his
contemporaries in the English-speaking world or, generally, in Europe? Kamov’s
life was cut very short by illness, and while ‘Kaljuža’ is his most important
work, who knows whether he might have even had a chance to be compared to the
likes of Joyce and others, had he just lived longer?
Firstly I must say that I am not
literary expert. My study of literature ended with secondary school Shakespeare
in England, but saying that I do like to read, and Kamov’s work, for me, is
exceptional and it certainly deserves to be translated well and published. In
that way literary scholars can come to their conclusions about it. Yes,
Croatian literary circles have compared Kamov to Joyce, Kafka and Camus and
have concluded that ‘Isušena kaljuža’ is in the top ten of Croatian writing, if
not number one. He himself was influenced by the writers of his time and makes
references to them in his work. It would seem that his work was ignored or
maybe even suppressed during his lifetime due to its content and possibly
because of other, more influential writers. He wrote the novel from 1906-1909
but it didn’t see the light of day until 1957, almost fifty years after his
death. If he had lived who knows what may have become of him.
I have followed your posts on Facebook as you worked
on this translation and it seems you stumbled upon many Croatian words
which have proven difficult, or at least challenging, to translate into English
or even properly explain using modern Croatian. How difficult was it really to
translate a modernist novel containing so many archaic words?
Janko Polić Kamov was born in Rijeka,
modern day Croatia but then part of the Austria-Hungary, on 17 November 1886,
and died at a very young age, being just 23, on 8 August 1910 in Barcelona,
Kamov’s work includes a vocabulary a lot
of which doesn’t seem to fit into what is today known as modern Croatian.
Slavic versions of words from French, German, Italian are mixed in with what
are now Serbian and Bosnian today which makes their translation into English a
real investigation. This together with the fact that he uses two verb tenses –
imperfect and aorist – which are virtually unused these days, and the
flashbacks and surrealism in the stories which seem unconnected and random,
plus the unusual syntactical structure of his sentences, means that translating
his work, for me, has almost become a process of interpretation. Every now and
then I will post a word on Facebook which I am struggling with and invite my
friends to offer a solution, sometimes causing heated, but mostly good
You are also compiling a glossary of terms as you
continue working on this translation. Do you feel this could be useful and
relevant to other translators who might eventually decide to translate other
works of literature from this period?
Yes, as I am translating his work I am compiling a
glossary of almost every word he uses in all of his works – it contains at
least three English equivalents of each word. In this way I don’t need to
remember every single word when it appears again as I translate. In compiling
this I have also compiled a dictionary of late 19th and
early 20th centuries
Serbo-Croatian to English from free online resources as well as a large
selection of Croatian dialectal words. In this way I’m trying to use the
English vocabulary from the same period as he wrote. In the end the final
glossary of possibly 50,000 words should be a unique collection, which could be
useful for the translation of similar period works.
Give us a top three words which you think even the
native Croatian readers today would have trouble understanding and let’s see
whether our readers have a problem with them! What are your English
translations for these?
Well as Croatian is not my native tongue is it not so
easy for me to say. Much of the time it is the context in which he uses the
words and expressions which take time to translate. Here are three such
examples in no particular order: none are a
woman’s breasts (origin is still unclear), budlaj –
werewolf (unknown origin), bilikum – a
special cup (German origin). Modern Croats would certainly have trouble
understanding these without a proper explanation.
Another point to be taken into
consideration is that over the decades various editions of his works have had
some slight amendments made by publishers and editors – they have changed some
spellings or even omitted words for whatever reasons, so I am trying to use the
originally published versions for my translation.
Would you like to see any other Croatian authors translated into English? Any that you plan to do yourself, should you be successful in finding a publisher for Kamov’s work?
There is enough of Kamov’s work to be translated and published as a complete anthology. This would be a great personal achievement. Of course if the cultural, literary or even academic entities in Croatia could provide funding for such a venture in order to push Croatian literature out further into the English speaking world, it would be a great step forward in the appreciation of all the literature from this part of the world. I am sure that there are many Croatian authors, past and present, who deserve to be translated. In fact today in Rijeka itself there are numerous young writers, many of whom are admirers of Kamov’s work.
Are you in contact with any publishers, in
Croatia or in the UK, who might be interested in publishing your
translation when it’s finished?
Yes, I have been communicating
sporadically with a couple of publishers in Croatia and the UK who have shown
interest, but due to the economic climate in Croatia being as it is, and the
fact that publishers outside the country have yet to fully appreciate Kamov’s
work, it is proving difficult to make an impression.
Thank you so much for your time and this interview, Martin. Should our readers wish to find out more about you, I suggest they have a look at your blog and, of course, if they feel that they can help you in finding a publisher and finishing your work, they are certainly free to get in touch!
This interview was conducted by Dario Sušanj for velikabritanija.net and published 09.09.2014.
Since this interview I have published my first book of my translations of Kamov’s works – a collection of 12 short stories – ‘Farces & Novellas‘ (May 2018) which is available at Amazon (paperback) and all other online ebook stores.
On Winged Wheels to Opatija’s Riviera– 145th anniversary of the building of the Vienna – Opatija – Rijeka and the Budapest – Rijeka railway and 110th anniversary of Opatija’s tramway is an extensive and fascinating exhibition by the Croatian Museum of Tourism being held in Opatija’s famous Villa Angiolina until 31st October 2019.
The arrival of the railway and the electric tramway meant the rapid development of tourism in Opatija and the whole region. The exhibition details every step of the construction, implementation and running of the whole system even including human stories of the workers, drivers and the local people involved.
This is another excellent project which I am glad to have been involved as the English translator, working on the exhibition texts and promotional materials.
You can find more info here. Plus a report by HRT TV here.
‘Kako čitati prostorni plan’ is a new exhibition on Rijeka’s Korzo which explains the intricacies of spatial planing in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. Written and produced by the Zavod za prostorno uređenje Primorsko-goranske županije it is a major effort to explain the importance of environmental planning to the general public of the county, which itself is celebrating 25 years of its foundation.
Over 10 boards of 20 panels, it explains the history, development, current status and importance of spatial planning in the county.
I am very honoured to have been in involved in the translation of such an important and interesting project about the county in which I live.
The exhibition on Rijeka’s Korzo runs until 12.10.2018 and all the online information in English is available here.
WE PRESENT SARAH & THE ROMANS –
a merry group from Rijeka who are winning over the world!
10th October 2017 – Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia. Interview with Ivana Kocijan.
Coming soon from the German publishing house AGR TV Records in Hamburg will be ‘First Date’ the debut album by the Croatian group Sarah & The Romans. To find out how this cooperation came about, what it means to them, what they sing about in their songs, we spoke to band members: Sara Blažić, Goran Troha and Igor Willheim.
Igor: Six months ago we began to send emails and singles to Europe and America, looking for a publisher for our album. Publishing houses from Canada, America, Sweden and Germany were interested. German companies were the most interested in this regard, and over a few months we reached an agreement with one of them, signed a deal and began the production of the album. Goran: We were not trying to look for a publisher in Croatia because all the material is aimed at the foreign market, the songs are in English, and the music is such that it is more popular abroad than here.
When will the album be published and what can we find on it?Who are your songwriters? Goran: We have 11 songs on the album. Of those 10 are original compositions, whilst one is a version of an instrumental on the theme of the movie ‘Kekec’ (‘Good Will is The Best’) which we have arranged ourselves. As for the writers, I can say there are many, especially of the lyrics. As the lyrics are in English, we strive that they are written by native speakers. And in this we also have a translator who is following us, Martin Mayhew, an Englishman with a Rijeka address. Who as a translator and musician, has fitted very well into our story. The music and arrangements are written by members of the band. Igor: The album should be released on 27th October, and in the deal there is also a second album, which we are already working on, all the demo material has been recorded. We are still not sure of the title.
What themes do you sing about? Sara: The themes are love. The name of the album is ‘First Date’, as in romance, but also as in the first encounter of our band with the audience… It can be interpreted in various ways, but always positively and with good intention. The lyrics are always of love, optimistic, which is also the message of the bluegrass music that we play: everything is happy, positive, and even when something bad happens, you forget it, carry on and everything is OK.
Your first single ‘Smoke in The Wind’ from last year was chosen as Bluegrass Song of the Month by the American Akademia Music Awards.What does this acknowledgment mean for you?
Goran: Yes, we sent the song upon the recommendation of one radio DJ from Houston who fell for our music. The song was chosen as song of the month in June in its category. This really did open the door to the music world for us, and with that we gained many contacts. So for example we joined up with a dance troupe from Tennessee who we accompanied for five days in Zagreb, they danced, and we played. Igor: It was the International Folklore Festival, an excellent experience. The music brought us together and a great collaboration was created and so we will continue to accompany the dance troupe from Tennessee further at European dance festivals. At that time we also got to know a group from Indonesia, amongst whom was Agung who plays the talempong. This is a (audibly) similar instrument to the xylophone and makes a magical tone which so delighted and surprised us that we asked Agung to record something with us, which we then put together in one song. This is the charm of our music, we mix what we like into it. In the same song we also incorporated a flute. Sara: With that example Igor has described why we think we are original, what our vision is and how we are trying to create a unique sound.
Remind us of when and how the band was formed; who are its members and were you active as such a large group from the beginning? Goran: The band Sarah & The Romans came into existence in 2014, and currently there are ten members. We have also collaborated with musicians from Ljubljana (Slovenia), some permanent members are from Zagreb. We work in a kind of Rijeka-Zagreb-Ljubljana triangle. We are trying to make our music interesting, original and surprising. One instrument appears in an entire song, a second in two musical sections and then no more. This gives vibrancy, dynamics, and colour to the sound. And for that to function and be interesting, you need to have a little orchestra.
Where do you play the most, where can we listen to you? Igor: We will have the promotion of the album in Rijeka after it comes out. We perform mainly at festivals.
Where did you record the album? Goran: The songs were recorded in the Mr Lucky and Just Sound studios in Rijeka and in Metro in Ljubljana. Both the mix and mastering of the songs were finished by Mladen Srića (Rijeka, Croatia), Janez Križaj (Ljubljana, Slovenia) and Eduardo Reynoso Jr. (L.A., California).
You play a unique combination of various genres.What are they? Goran: We are unique in every case because we don’t repeat or copy traditional bluegrass. What is that in effect? It is our polka and waltzes, our European music, central European folk which is permanently in our ears. Bluegrass is acoustic, there are no electric guitars, no drums, it is full of wooden, warm instruments. The whole concept is very optimistic, positive… Such as we are in spirit, so is our music.
Are you recognised in Croatia? Sara: Yes, we are recognised, but in small circles. However, again we don’t play traditional bluegrass. It is not for older audiences, we are making music for the younger people. Radio stations are playing our music, we are played a lot abroad, for instance on British stations, and many more in America… One of our songs was in the Top 10 in Missouri.
Was singer Sara Blažić in the band from the beginning? Igor: Yes, we met during karaoke shows, she made a great impression on us because she had a very interesting voice. Also with her in the band are the singers Nikolina Akmadža and Matea Dujmović who also plays flute on one song.
You are collaborating with the 92-year-old singer Bruno Petrali.Can you tell us something more about that? Goran: Yes, at the same time with the band we are working on the project Sarah & The Romans feat. Bruno Petrali. Igor: Petrali is a legend. He is 92 years old, he knows everything about music, everything about sport. We have recorded a duet with him, a version of the song ‘Una sola volta ci si ama’, with his original translation. It was joy to work with Petrali and so we recorded two more songs, a version of ‘Bambina’ by Neno Belan which he translated into Italian and a version of the song ‘Sve moje jeseni su tužne’ (’All My Autumns Are Sad’) by Žarko Petrović, which Petrali sang originally way back in 1957.
Goran: We are also working on a special album with Iva Santini, a young singer-songwriter from Rijeka, who is also the writer of one of the songs on our first album. The album with Iva will be something very innovative, different. Her genre is folk-ethno, and she usually plays the Celtic harp and ukulele.
Members of the band: Singers: Sara Blažić, Nikolina Akmadža, Matea Dujmović
Violin: Antun Stašić, Nikola Čeran, Mislav Salopek
Mandolin: Roman Tomašković
Banjo: Goran Troha
Dobro, guitar: Boris Luka Luković
Guitar: Zoran Bebe Petrović
Double bass: Domagoj Zubo Zubović
Harmonica: Ivica Dujić
Drums: Suzan Vidović
Booking manager: Igor Willheim
Guests on the album ‘First Date’: Anja Hrastovšek and Jasna Žitnik, Ivana Marić, Artemija Stanić, RiverBlue (Vedran and Ivana Mlakar), Mirna Škrgatić, Mladen Srića, Nataša Manestar, Damjan Vasiljević, Sempre Allegro Choir Rijeka, Dino Džopa Šemsudin, Vanja Dizdarević, Damjan Grbac, Tilen Stepišnik, Dušan Pjer Ladavac, Uroš Šuljić, Žiga Šercer, Nikola Jovanović, Krešimir Kunda, Klaudio Kolar, Petar Tepšić, Rajko Ergić and Ivan Pjerić Dorčić.
(Translated by Martin Mayhew from the original Croatian article here)
FROM ENGLAND TO INDIA BY AUTOMOBILE An 8,527-mile Trip Through Ten Countries, from London to Quetta, Requires Five and a Half Months BY MAJOR F.A.C. FORBES-LEITH
extract: THE FIUME “LIONS” OF ITALY’S POET SOLDIER
Our next stop was at Fiume, the scene of the coup of Gabriele d’Annunzio, Italy’s poet patriot. It is also a fine port, but a mean city in comparison with Trieste. A narrow river separates it from Susak, the Yugoslavian frontier town.
An impressive sight in the city was the great number of apparently idle young men with shock heads of hair fluffed out like a lion’s mane. We thought this must be the latest thing in Fiume masculine styles until an English-speaking friend explained that this is the hall mark of d’Annunzio’s “lions,” who, with him, captured the city.
We were warned not to upset any of them, as they have the reputation of being excessively irascible and a law unto themselves.
After a night in Fiume, we crossed the frontier bridge to Yugoslavia. The incredible change made by those few yards is impossible to imagine – a jump from stagnation and slackness to hurry and bustle.
The only place into which the general energy had not penetrated was the customhouse. We had a letter of introduction to the chief revenue officer, who told us that, as a great favour, they would rush us through the formalities. The “rush” required six hours to deal with our small outfit!
The officials seemed to like our company. As soon as the papers were passed to a fresh clerk, he would come and have a friendly chat with us on European politics, our trip, and, in fact, anything but the business concerned. They were so cheery and genial that we could not take offense; so we smoked endless cigarettes and waited.
Overland from England to India in late 1924 by Major Forbes-Leith. Here seen in Baghdad on 20th August 1924.
EVERY VILLAGE CAFE IN YUGOSLAVIA HAS ITS ORCHESTRA
We were now in a new kingdom, a charming country of delightful, music-loving people. Every little village café has its orchestra of young men playing the guitar and mandolin, and accompanied by a trio or quartette of girl singers. The former stand and play; the latter sit in a row in front and sing national songs from dusk to midnight.
The Croats and Serbs are fine fellows of good physique, very hard workers, great patriots, and among the finest soldiers in the world. Serbia, before the World War, was spoken of as a little Balkan state; now she must be reckoned as a power in Europe.
At Agram (Zagreb), the capital of Croatia, formerly part of the old Austrian Empire, we had a shock that made us rub our eyes. In front of us at the first crossroad, was the embodiment of an English policeman, with helmet, uniform, and baton complete. We heard afterward that the whole police force of the city was modeled and trained on British lines, even uniforms being supplied by outfitters in England.
In atmosphere, architecture, and general plan, Agram is a miniature Vienna. It has a fine opera house, and the architecture is for the most part typically Austrian.
Living is very cheap here for the man who carries either the pound sterling or the dollar.
The trip was made in 1924 and published by The National Geographic Magazine August 1925.
There was even a cameraman on the trip and there exists footage – called ‘Lure of the East’ of some of the trip available here on the British Pathe archives website. And on Vimeo – watch at 1:00 and you’ll see a Zagreb copper: https://vimeo.com/45439980
Latest website and brochure translation for the tourist boards of Kastav, Klana, Viškovo, Jelenje, Čavle, Kostrena, Bakar, Kraljevica and Rijeka. Full of detailed paths and trails for all ages. It features the distances, difficulties, GPS coordinates, altitudes, walking times, sights and facilities of each route.
Two exhibition guides I translated for MMSU (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka). Milan Šober was a well respected photographer from Rijeka and this collection features images from the Rijeka environs in the 1950s – more info about the exhibition here. Ivan Marušić Klif is a modern experimenter in media using kinetic, light and video installations – more info about the exhibition here.
Milan Šober – Crtica iz riječke povijesti (A sketch from Rijeka’s photo-history) ISBN 978-953-8107-07-8
Ivan Marušić Klif – Novi radovi (New Works) ISBN 978-953-8107-10-8
All four original volumes of Kamov’s work, with dust jackets. Published by the ‘Otokar Keršovani’ publishing company in Rijeka. Edited by Dragutin Tadijanović, artwork by Miljenko Stančić.
Vol. 1 – Pjesme, novele i lakrdije 1956
Vol. 2 – Isušena Kaljuža 1957
Vol. 3 – Drame 1957
Vol. 4 – Članci i feljtoni – pisma 1958